|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #215, 216 and 217|
31 December, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
As this is the date in the calendar when we are approaching the New Year, our thoughts generally turn, once more, to view the calendar, and to review how time has treated us and our families over the past years. It seems appropriate, then, to ponder anew some of the considerations which come into view as we scan the Biblical record to see what God's Word can tell us about the passage of our years, and indeed, of time in general, and for this reason, I am departing from our customary sequence of studies in Exodus to consider the topic of "Evidence of Divinity In Time" in this talk and the next.
In Psalm 31:15 David craves the help of God, saying "My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me." To this plea, we might possibly relate some experience in our own life. Similarly, we may appreciate the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
To this point, the Ecclesiastes passage is perhaps familiar ground to many, for it relates to our own personal, relatively short-term experiences of life, but there are some further verses to consider. Verse 11 says "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." So as seen from man's limited timespan, we cannot comprehend all history as God understands it. Verse 14 says: "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him." Here there is a deep clue to one purpose of The Almighty in the establishment of time measures throughout the tapestry of time. While we can, ourselves, relate to the former passages of Scripture, because they are common to our own experience of life these last parts may be obscure. Perhaps in them The Almighty desires to convey to His creatures the understanding that, while each of them is transient, He is eternal, and the All Powerful Creator of every particle of Creation. All, therefore, must have been planned from the beginning.
A question often raised by people whose thoughts are formed from our limited perspective is "How can God see all of time together at one and the same time." As a High School Geography teacher, I had a favourite approach when leading into the astronomical setting of the earth. I used to explain that light takes a certain time to travel over vast distances, so that we do not see the Moon, the Sun, the planets or the stars or distant galaxies as they are at the instant of viewing, but rather, as they were so many seconds, minutes, hours, days or years ago. When we look up at the night sky, therefore, we are looking back through all of the history of Creation simultaneously. Can The Almighty Creator not do the same from all aspects of His work? Also, the future is implicit in the present which derives from the past, so He can view it too. With that point in mind, consider Ecclesiastes 3:15: "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." This shows us the fact that all of the processes of time are as one in the view of The LORD.
If we are now beginning to see that there is method and planning within that portion of history which forms our own life experience, and further, that this comes about because it was all planned from the beginning of time, then we are on the way towards an appreciation of even deeper veins of truth.
Let us search out in the Scriptures some specific examples wherein reference is made or indicated to certain assigned spans of time; certain allotted time measures of which the number of units are meaningful and significant. In Genesis 6:3, God warned the evil generation of Noah's day saying of mankind, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. The record states that the Flood arrived on schedule. Here we may note that the number of 120 is thus marked as a significant period of time for such assessment and judgment. We may think of this number as a multiple of forty years, incidentally, and forty is a number which appears elsewhere in Scripture in a number of contexts as a number signifying a time of trial or testing.
In Genesis 15:13-16, The LORD made a covenant with Abram, which included the statement that "thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;" ... "in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." So a portion of history of four centuries was specified to the culmination of a promised event. Here again, the number four hundred is a multiple of forty, so we may begin to see connecting themes in such numbers.
In Genesis 18:14, Sarah, Abraham's wife was past bearing children, and God made a promise to Abraham saying "Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." God appointed a time, which was probably that of the normal period for gestation of a child, but it was in this instance for a miraculous event, the birth of Isaac, to occur. We find the conclusion in Genesis 21:1-3 where Isaac is indeed born according to that promise.
Again, in Psalm 105:19, the Psalmist records of Joseph that "Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him." Joseph's years in the Egyptian prison were for a pre-set time of testing, about 12 in number, if we have done our calculations correctly.
Speaking of a yet future time when The LORD will have mercy upon Zion, the Psalmist says in Psalm 102:13 "Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come." So God appoints a set time for a certain activity on His part to commence.
Prophesying against Babylon, the Prophet Jeremiah records a prophecy in Jeremiah 51:6, 18 and 33 of a certain point in time, called "the time of the LORD's vengeance", "the time of their visitation" and "the time of her harvest". Here we find that a specific time is appointed for that destruction to take place. These examples show that the times which The Almighty sets are of various durations, some almost immediate, others ranging through centuries and thousands of years.
We find that Christ appeared at the set, appointed time, as Paul, in Galatians 4:4 says, "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" and the same Apostle in Ephesians 1:10 writes "that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ..."
Christ Himself had shown the beginning of His ministry was to be at a set point in history, as we read in Mark 1:14-15: "...Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
In Matthew 8:28 we read that even the devils which possessed two men in the country of the Gergesenes cried out at the approach of Jesus saying "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" So even the devils knew that a certain time is appointed for them to receive judgment!
In John 7:6 and 8, Jesus replied to his brethren that He would not yet go to Judaea for the feast of tabernacles, "for", as He stated, "my time... (that is, the time for Him to be offered up) "...is not yet full come." He did go, but in secret on that occasion. Jesus was constantly aware of the importance of fulfilling every time element of a great pattern of time measures in His activities.
In Acts 17:26, the Apostle Paul explained to the Athenians how that God had "determined the times before appointed..."
In Acts 1:7 the risen Christ was asked "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel, and in answer He gave the significant reply "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." Later generations would understand more, and Paul, in I Thessalonians 5:1-2 was to write "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" and the Prophet Daniel had centuries before been informed, as stated in Daniel 12:10, that at the time of the end "the wise shall understand."
The Apostle Peter, in Acts 3:21, explained to the men of Israel who had observed the healing of the lame man at the temple that this had been done through the power of Jesus Christ, "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." So Peter knew of certain times before appointed for such to take place.
The examples which we have thus far examined may set the stage for a further examination of the significance of certain specific time periods on our next programme. In the interim, let me leave with you the thought that every part of our own existence is set within the vast time sequences which God has planned to take place in history from the foundation of the world. He will not move them until the set measures be fulfilled.
However, our prayers are also set to occur as a part of the same system of unfolding of events, and so the matter is not to be viewed as a fatalistic certainty which ignores our input. As an Olympian may be destined to excellence, the same must first also pass through the rigors of practice. We must, as indicated in Hebrews 12:1-2, run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
7 January, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
On our last programme we diverged from the usual course of study in Exodus 36 to look at the first part of this two-part study under the heading "Evidence of Divinity in Time" as we are now moving into a New Year and at such breaks in the calendar, we generally tend to allow ourselves to consider matters of longer perspective in the concourse of history.
In the first part, we saw how The Almighty has inserted within His Creation a design pattern such that certain time periods of great significance, but outside the control of mere man, set the stage for acceptance of God's supremacy. Today we will continue our study by picking up some Scripture passages which mention or exemplify the patterns of which we speak.
The Prophet Daniel is given a message in Daniel 8:14 and 17 which speaks of a period of treading down of the sanctuary, being "two thousand and three hundred days", and the timing of this occurrence is added in the words "at the time of the end shall be the vision."
Isaiah 7:8 prophesies "within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people."
In Jeremiah 25:11 and 12, and also 29:10, that Prophet affirms that Judah shall serve in Babylonian captivity for exactly seventy years. It was from this Scripture that Daniel later discerned that the time had expired, as recorded in Daniel 9:2. As Daniel then proceeded to confess the sins of his people, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, and gave him more most remarkable time periods which eventuated down the centuries in the time of Jesus Christ.
Let us step back, so to speak, and take in the broad picture of what is involved. The Laws of Nature, of themselves, are rigid and unyielding, and therefore can only permit one specific and completely detailed unfolding of the entire history of Creation. Even the thoughts which govern decisions by man and beast, if all the contributing and influencing details were known, could be presented as entirely pre-determined. In other words, Predestination is implicit in the very Laws of Nature themselves. Where God intervenes in history, that also both was and is, from the first, a pre-determined event, so we can say that Almighty God has planned from the very first instant of Creation for a single very definite outworking of all the almost infinite details of history.
He has inserted in the whole tapestry of time and space marvellous patterns whereby certain spans of time operate to stamp His mark of design patterns, like a trade mark, upon His workmanship. Thus, as the Psalmist puts it, in Psalm 19:1-4:
1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work.
2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world... .
When considered in light of this philosophical observation which we have just outlined, we can see that truly, the works of God in constructing all of history to a pattern laced with these intricate and meaning-filled time measures, ought to form a blazing warning to the atheistic humanist, of the sort described in Psalm 14:1 as a fool, who states "There is no God."
That specific meaningful timespans have been designed into history is, to those who have examined the details of these patterns, unquestioned. These timespan patterns have often a prophetic intent, and they are thus given in advance by revelation from The Almighty to, and through, the Prophets, so that honour and glory might later be yielded to God Who has thus proved that He is the Creator of all things.
It is not only desirable, but in most cases quite essential, that every plan or map should display a scale, usually near the words of the title, by which the reader can measure out and tabulate the various portions of the design laid before him. The Plan of Creation is provided with the units for a number of inter-related scales of grand proportion. Back in the Creation story, in Genesis 1:14, we read "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years". Here we find the marks by which to measure time. Days and years are our units.
Sometimes, indeed, the scale is one in which a day represents a year or vice versa. We find in Numbers 14:34, that because the children of Israel balked at entering into their inheritance in The Promised Land, they were destined to wander in the wilderness: "After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise."
In Ezekiel 4:4-6 that Prophet is instructed by God: "Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year." As an incidental aside, note that Israel and Judah are not the same entity by this time. The Ten and a half Tribes of Northern Israel had parted from the Two and a half Tribes of Judah.
Sometimes a thousand years may be summed up and encapsulated in a single day. Describing the conditions which would prevail in the final years before Christ's glorious Second Advent, the Apostle Peter stated in II Peter 3:8 "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Therefore, in projecting the scale of a prophecy, we must be prepared to read the designated time measure by more than one scale to determine which scale is appropriate, for the projection. In cases of multiple fulfilment, more than one scale may be valid for varied projections of the same prophetic theme.
In Revelation 11:2-3 two events are described. One is the treading down of the holy city by Gentiles which endures "forty and two months." The other is the prophesying of God's two witnesses clothed in sackcloth during that time period, which is re-stated as "a thousand two hundred and threescore days, that is, 1260 days. There is consistency. Each of these forty-two prophetic months is seen to represent a prophetic month of 30 days, and the whole forty-two month period covers three and a half years of 360 days each, which we call "prophetic years." This arrangement is also found in the ancient division of a circle into 360 degrees.
In certain scriptures, we find a set amount of history which is called a "time", in the form "time, times and a half", and "seven times", and we can also suggest the scale of these time periods. Nebuchadnezzar the king had personally undergone a judgment period of insanity called "seven times" in Daniel 4:20-36, and this was, it seems, also prophetic of a "seven times" judgment upon his entire system of government which we find described in Daniel 2:36-45 as the great image of gold, silver, brass (that is, bronze or copper), iron and clay, which is to be destroyed by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands; that is, the Kingdom of God.
Years later, in the banquet hall in which the Babylonian king Belshazzar held his great Babylonian feast, a hand wrote the words "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" upon the wall, and the Prophet Daniel was brought in to interpret the matter. It too was a judgment upon that king, but also upon the whole Babylonian economic and governmental system, of which the time of existence was being numbered to judgment. Appropriately, the economic expression Daniel used to interpret those words which were written upon the wall was "weighed in the balances." The actual written words "mena", "tekel" or "shekel" and "upharsin" or "division", generally taken to mean "half a mena", were the weights used in Babylonian trade, a number of samples of which have since been discovered and studied. The mena was one thousand gerahs and the shekel 20 gerahs. Thus the two and a half mina equalled 2500 gerahs and the shekel an additional 20 gerahs, making a total of 2520 gerahs. This number, 2520, is thus a number significant of a period of time following which judgment would fall upon the whole succession of Babylonian empires.
As this judgment number is prophetically linked to the experience of Nebuchadnezzar's "seven times" experience of personal judgment, his period of insanity must have lasted for 2520 days, or seven years. But more significant for our study, the equivalent judgment upon the entire succession of Babylonian empires described in Daniel 2:36-45 could not be accomplished in only seven actual years, and must, therefore, be on the larger scale of seven prophetic years of years, at the ratio of each day for a year, or, in other words, 2520 years. Thus, one "time" would reasonably fit to one prophetic year and the "time, times and a half" most reasonably fits to the measure of "one year, two years and half a year" or three and a half such years, or 1260 days, or, on the longer scale, 1260 years. Daniel was given the numbers 1260, 1290 and 1335 days as significant time measures, but, as we have seen, this would also be the same numbers of years rather than literal days on the larger scale.
We know from history that these calculations are evidently correct. For example, when, on 9th, 10th and 11th of December, in the year 1917, General Allenby's British Empire forces entered Jerusalem, releasing it from the grip of the Turkish forces, which used a banner displaying a sword, it was the termination date of 2520 years from the date in 604 B.C. when Jerusalem had fallen under the sword of the Babylonian forces. It was also 1335 lunar years from the start of the Mohammedan (lunar) calendar which commenced on 15th July, in 622 A.D. with the Hegira marking the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. As Christ stated to His disciples in Lk. 21:24, "...and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
The same length of timespan, 2520 years, separates the year when Israelitish tribes living on the east of the Jordan River were deported by Assyria and the later establishment of the United States of America. Likewise, the span of 2520 years separates the year 721 B.C. when the main body of the Northern Tribes of Israel was deported by the Assyrians, and the year 1800 which marks the completion of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Incidentally, when checking these calculations, do keep in mind that there was no year zero between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D..
With this we conclude the short examination of these time periods, and on the next programme we plan to return to our sequence of studies on the Book of Exodus. As a meditation, you might wish to consider how often the timing aspect of various miraculous events augments and indeed frequently is essential to, their special significance. Thus it will also be with the timing of Christ's Second Advent, for which the wise will make preparation.
14 January, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
For several weeks now, we have been diverging from our usual series of Bible Studies in order to allow our thoughts to focus upon the Christmas theme and a review of times past and future as we passed from 1995 into the New Year of 1996. Today, I would like to return to our regular sequence of studies, which were temporarily left in abeyance at Exodus 36:7.
We have, over the course of the past several years, seen how The Almighty God drew Abram aside from his land and people, to form a new thing in the earth's history. From the aged loins of that Patriarch, and in accordance with mighty promises granted to him and to his wife, Sarah, The LORD had brought forth the miracle child, Isaac, and from him, in turn, Jacob whom He renamed Israel. Now Israel's descendants, having been led down into the land of Egypt for their education, a part of which involved the experience of bondage and servitude, have emerged once again through the Exodus crossing of the sea bed to the freedom and the responsibility of life in the Sinai Wilderness. At Mount Sinai, these children of Israel had met with God, and His Law, The Commandments became the foundation of their new status as the national "wife" of Yahweh (Jehovah), their God.
The portable national focus of worship called the Tabernacle has been described, the materials assembled, and the workers chosen to accomplish the necessary tasks for the preparation of this extremely prophetic and symbolic tent of worship. Chief among the labourers, as we saw from Exodus 36:1, were Bezaleel and Aholiab, who, with "every wise hearted man, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding" were to prepare this holy work for God.
While both men and women would participate in the preparation of the woven materials, Keil and Delitzsch make an interesting comment. They state that, while spinning would usually be work done by women, "The woven cloths for the tabernacle were prepared by men, partly perhaps because the weaving in Egypt was mostly done by the men (Herod. 2,35...) but chiefly for this reason, that the cloths for the hangings and curtains were artistic works, which the women did not understand, but which the men had learned in Egypt, where artistic weaving was carried out to a great extent..."
Lest the ladies among our listeners take me to task on the matter, perhaps I might quote a translation of the actual words which Herodotus uses. He writes of Egypt "...but the people also, in most of their manners and customs, exactly reverse the common practice of mankind. The women attend the markets and trade, while the men sit at home at the loom; and here, while the rest of the world works the woof up the warp, the Egyptians work it down; the women likewise carry burthens upon their shoulders, while the men carry them upon their heads."
We are taking today's reading starting at Exodus 36:8 where we find the various symbolic items once again listed.
8. And every wise hearted man among them that wrought the work of the tabernacle made ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work made he them.
9. The length of one curtain was twenty and eight cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: the curtains were all of one size.
10. And he coupled the five curtains one unto another: and the other five curtains he coupled one unto another.
11. And he made loops of blue on the edge of one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling: likewise he made in the uttermost side of another curtain, in the coupling of the second.
12. Fifty loops made he in one curtain, and fifty loops made he in the edge of the curtain which was in the coupling of the second: the loops held one curtain to another.
13. And he made fifty taches of gold, and coupled the curtains one unto another with the taches: so it became one tabernacle.
14. And he made curtains of goats' hair for the tent over the tabernacle: eleven curtains he made them.
15. The length of one curtain was thirty cubits, and four cubits was the breadth of one curtain: the eleven curtains were of one size.
16. And he coupled five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves.
17. And he made fifty loops upon the uttermost edge of the curtain in the coupling, and fifty loops made he upon the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.
18. And he made fifty taches of brass to couple the tent together, that it might be one.
19. And he made a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers' skins above that.
20. And he made boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood, standing up.
21. The length of a board was ten cubits, and the breadth of a board one cubit and a half.
22. One board had two tenons, equally distant one from another: thus did he make for all the boards of the tabernacle.
23. And he made boards for the tabernacle; twenty boards for the south side southward:
24. And forty sockets of silver he made under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
25. And for the other side of the tabernacle, which is toward the north corner, he made twenty boards,
26. And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
27. And for the sides of the tabernacle westward he made six boards.
28. And two boards made he for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
29. And they were coupled beneath, and coupled together at the head thereof, to one ring: thus he did to both of them in both the corners.
30. And there were eight boards; and their sockets were sixteen sockets of silver, under every board two sockets.
31. And he made bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle,
32. And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle for the sides westward.
33. And he made the middle bar to shoot through the boards from the one end to the other.
34. And he overlaid the boards with gold, and made their rings of gold to be places for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold.
35. And he made a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubims made he it of cunning work.
36. And he made thereunto four pillars of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold: their hooks were of gold; and he cast for them four sockets of silver.
37. And he made an hanging for the tabernacle door of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of needlework;
38. And the five pillars of it with their hooks: and he overlaid their chapiters and their fillets with gold: but their five sockets were of brass.
It is most noteworthy, and we ought to remember the fact, that numbers are of symbolic importance in Scripture, and here, once again, we see how often The LORD gave direction that things were to be made in fives, or multiples thereof, and that the number eight is symbolic of The Lord Jesus Christ. We note the numbers of the couplings for ten curtains, in two sets of five, each curtain linked to the next by fifty loops and attaching clips, the two sides of the Tabernacle, each composed of twenty boards, all of ten cubits length, and upheld by forty sockets (five times eight) on a side, the end composed of six boards plus two corner boards, making eight. The boards of each side were held in alignment by five bars, and five pillars upheld the hanging for the Tabernacle door. Five is a number which, in Scripture, bears an association with Grace, so this tent is filled with symbolism connected thereto.
There is further symbolism. Remember that the colours described in this passage as "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen are linked with gold. Now linen, unless otherwise described, was white, and The New Bible Dictionary, item "Linen", mentions that the Egyptian linen of those days was exported to other lands, notably Palestine. Thus the colours of the Tabernacle are those which various descendants of Israel use today, chief among whom, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation assert, are the British and the Americans of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred origins. The rarity of gold and purple in those earlier days caused a natural association of these with the rich, and with royalty. Thus we find even today that this combination represents a regal setting or association.
We shall continue our studies next week. Let me leave with you a thought for meditation. Each person will doubtless have been endowed with some specific personal gift. Perhaps it is the timely exercise of patience, knowledge, skill, or just a timely smile or an expression of Christian love which, when applied in the particular situation where The Almighty God has placed each person, will yield an honourable service towards the construction of His Temple made of human "stones." We do not know how the gift will add to the whole when placed within the final setting, but we do see that we can be a part of God's Great Plan, yielding honour and joy to all around us in the splendour of His presence. May the thought lift your heart and strengthen your service as the time of His Appearing draws closer.
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